Home / Politics / Policy /  Arvind Kejriwal delivers on the promise of free water for Delhi

Ghaziabad: Households with a metered water connection in Delhi will get 20 kilolitres of water a month free of charge, the capital’s water distributor said on Monday, delivering on an electoral pledge by the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Nearly half of all Delhi households with a metered water connection stand to benefit from the handout, which will kick in on 1 January.

“We will not even levy any existing charges such as water cess and sewerage charge," said Delhi Jal Board (DJB) chief operating officer Vijay Kumar.

According to DJB estimates, the water subsidy will cost the government 165 crore a year.

A DJB official said that of the total 1.9 million metered water connections in Delhi, 850,000 households use less than 20 kilolitres of water a month.

“This category will benefit the most because they will not have to pay anything as long as they keep using the same amount of water," the official who requested anonymity said.

The AAP, which surprised political parties with its spectacular debut in the Delhi assembly election winning 28 out of 70 seats earlier this month, promised in its manifesto that it will halve electricity bills; provide 700 litres (0.7 kilolitres) of free water to all households every day; and improve basic public health facilities and access for people by increasing staff at primary healthcare centres and doubling the number of hospital beds to five per 1,000 people.

Monday’s decision was taken at a DJB meeting chaired by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal at this home in Kaushambi, two days after he took oath as chief minister.

The official quoted above said that households consuming more than 20 kilolitres of water will, however, have to pay the entire bill and would not be able to avail of any subsidy.

“As of now, we charge more than 6 for households consuming more than 20 kilolitres of water and there are different slabs for consumption more than that. All those slabs will remain the same," the DJB official quoted above said.

It could not be determined whether the government will charge for water being supplied to more than 1,600 so-called unauthorized settlements across Delhi as most of the households in such colonies have not installed water meters.

The DJB official said that households without a water meter will have to install one to avail of free water. “They can approach DJB to install a meter," the official said.

Political analysts believe such populist measures will boost the AAP’s chances at the upcoming Lok Sabha election.

“This is the first popular step taken by the Delhi government and it will ensure that people who had voted for them in the Delhi assembly election will vote for them in the Lok Sabha election as well," said Sanjay Kumar, political analyst and fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

“I am wondering what will happen to the budget and economy because this is a populist measure and the government will have to spend money to provide so much free water to people every day," Kumar added.

The DJB will bear the cost of providing free water for three months till March, said the DJB official quoted above. “The funds for the same will be provided by the Delhi government from April onwards."

PTI contributed to this story.

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